We begin our herb and vegetable gardening with the best of intentions every year. After all, the idea of serving a backyard meal, complete with salad fixings we grew ourselves, is very seductive.
Then before we know it, we’re cursing under our breath because the leaves on our basil plant are wilted, despite our best efforts. So how can we plant and maintain our herb and vegetable garden to make 2013 the year of success?
This week, Eats brings you a comprehensive timeline of when to start planning certain specimens and the proper TLC needed to keep them thriving throughout each season.
The timeline for sowing herb seeds outdoors depends on if it is a seasonal or perennial plant, says Better Homes and Gardens. Perennial seeds need to be planted several weeks before the average last-frost date, while annuals require warm soil, so after the last average frost date.
Plant herbs in a spot that will provide six hours of sun per day, and give them about 18 inches in between each other. Watch out for herbs like mint that tend to overtake a garden.
Of course, if you enjoy having fresh herbs year-round, indoor planting works well. Likewise, transplanting herbs started in a container should wait until after the last frost. Transplantation is recommended for first-time gardeners.
Overfeeding herbs can lessen the essential oils that make them so desirable in cooking. Likewise, most herbs originated in dry areas and therefore are accustomed to dry conditions, so they should be watered in the morning.
A general all-purpose fertilizer should keep most of your herbs quite happy and fed.
Unyielding sunlight can be a killer of herbs, especially mid to late in the season. HGTV Gardens suggests that you check soil moisture daily. If the soil is dry, the plant will need more shade and water for a few days until it is rehydrated.
Potted herbs with a dryness problem either need to be moved into the shade or upgraded to a larger container.
Planting vegetables requires enough space, sunlight and enriched soil. Look at the plants already established in the area, and try not to plot your vegetables next to larger growth like trees, which will steal nutrients.
Some vegetables can be planted early in the year, while others must wait until after the last frost is long gone. “Warm season” vegetables, such as tomatoes, cannot tolerate frosty temperatures, while “cool season” vegetables, such as lettuce, enjoy a bit of a frost.
Watering vegetables too frequently is a common mistake for new gardeners. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has a comprehensive timetable of when different vegetables should be watered.
Adding compost in the spring and the fall, paired with a fertilizer, will help keep soil rich for vegetables. Certain fertilizers contain specific nutrients that work best for different plants too.
Vegetables, like herbs, require no less than six hours of sunlight per day, but ideally eight.